Can software last forever?
Making sure you have tools that are effective and functional
By Niccolò Maria Menozzi
A client commissions a piece of software: you collect the specifications, you design the prototype, it is approved and you move to the development phase. At the end of the process the software is ready to go, but does closing up the project really mean making sure that you have a finished and functional project “forever”?
We know that car tyres get used up and changed, that once you get a cat you also have to feed it and that a coffee machine is useless without coffee.
We often purchase goods that require something “extra” to make sure that our investment continues to guarantee its benefits.
Despite the fact that it has an added cost, it doesn’t really bother us that much because we know it is part of the “package”. Unfortunately this also includes the Christmas tree destroyed by the cat.
Having a software project done also means considering a tool that is not designed to be left to its own devices.
The fact that we are talking about something intangible doesn’t mean that it is not subject to “wear and tear”.
The certainty that, once the project has been concluded, the software will maintain all of it’s qualities despite the time dedicated to maintenance and improvement is rather dangerous.
Software maintenance is essential
Software that is ready and operative does its job and does it well, but it is not fixed in a constant state of effectiveness without any problems.
This is not due to bad design, but because technology is in constant evolution.
The digital world changes very rapidly: operating systems and browsers are regularly updated, new frameworks open up new options, there may be new security standards and hardware is increasingly performative… Just think about how quickly the smartphone sector evolves from year to year.
Guaranteeing consistent software performance over time means keeping up to date with innovation and making sure it does not become inevitably obsolete. To do this you must ensure that the code that has been written maintains its compatibility with the environment it must function in (for example browsers or operating systems).
Consistent maintenance can also improve performance, while less frequent maintenance can only keep the software stable.
If some part breaks down due to these technological changes, you need to take some time to fix it.
In other cases the addition of new functions may generate incompatibility bugs; luckily, you can use automated tests, if they have been previously integrated into the code, which identify these malfunctions, thus allowing you to perform regular maintenance more effectively and saving time.
Software evolves with the needs
We must also consider that the needs that lead to the design of software may evolve in time: companies grow and change, new needs emerge and new problems need to be dealt with.
The need to add support tools to software could come of its own accord. When development is over and the new tool is officially launched in the company, a very important period starts in which the work performed is put to the test.
The end user will understand on their own what still needs some improvement (to this end you may be interested in knowing why the user interface is a question of functional aspects and not esthetic taste).
«this function is not very intuitive», «this procedure is too time-consuming», «it would be useful to also be able to do this» etc… The feedback starts coming in and the project enters into a new fine-tuning fase.
Unless the software was created for a very specific purpose that doesn’t allow great changes, someone may eventually wish to integrate new functions. This is the case for example with company web apps and mobile apps with management functions that tend to collect various monitoring and elaboration tools which increase in number as time goes by. Each new component enriches it and extends its range of action, further improving other processes and tasks.
Naturally, every correction and every new integration imply some work to validate the feasibility, to make sure that the functionality is really useful and there are no technical or UX conflicts (if you wish you can read our overview of user experience) with what was previously developed.
Software is an asset to take care of
You will have understood that there is always a bit of buzz around new software starting as soon as it is effectively launched.
It is an asset that needs to be taken care of: as long as the software is maintained in good working order we can continue to benefit from it and it remains a useful investment. If, instead, we neglect it, it soon becomes obsolete and a money drain with few benefits.
Luckily, armed with this knowledge you can delegate the maintenance tasks to a professional development team without having to worry about complex technical aspects. This team will take care of the updates and the management of new functions you may need.
Think about the health of your software and avoid nasty surprises when it’s too late.
Is it slow? Does it often display error messages or have malfunctions? Does the user complain about not finding the commands and information they are looking for? These are all signs that it is already time to intervene.
If you need consultation before making a new investment to renew your software or create it from scratch, contact us and let’s talk about it.